An exploration of how women's lives were transformed by the Golden Age of ocean liner travel between Europe and North America in the twentieth century. They were celebrities, migrants, millionaires, refugees, aristocrats and crew members whose stories have mostly remained untold—until now.
... wonderfully readable ... Evans’s prologue deftly builds us a ship ... Piquant or squalid details provide a startling metaphor for insouciant social inequality ... The story is invigoratingly feminist ... engaging ... The book’s a treat. It’s staying on my shelf.
Evans' book is strongest when she discusses the women hired to work aboard the ocean liners ... engaging and accessible. The author's 'celebration of the diverse journeys made by a number of intrepid heroines' is put within the historical context of shifts in gender roles during the first half of the 20th century. Evans' decision to investigate stories of enormous personal transformation is a fruitful way to explore the impact of broader social changes. Her claim that transatlantic travel was life-altering does seem overdrawn when applied to wealthy women taking lavish vacations—but for non-elite women, travel was much more likely to be that 'step into the unknown' that Evans celebrates.
Siân Evans tells stories of the women who made the crossing and those who took care of them from embarkation on one continent to docking on another ... Broadening her focus along the way, Evans writes entertainingly of corporate competition and improvements in ship design, describing grand and grandiose decoration in gratifying detail. We see the rise of pleasure cruising as a vacation and watch Prohibition drive the 'booze cruise' outside American waters ... Like the best salty yarns, Maiden Voyages splices together intriguing personalities in extraordinary settings sailing through dramatic times, a tale well worth the fare.